Friday, October 29, 2004


"Gun law reforms in the past 25 years have led to a 65 per cent drop in gun-related deaths in Victoria, a study has found. The study, by the Monash University Accident Research Centre, showed the annual average frequency of firearm-related deaths fell by 65 per cent from 1979 to 2000, with suicide deaths down 54.5 per cent and gun assault deaths down by half. Researchers examined firearm-related deaths between 1979 and 2000, against gun law reforms in Victoria after the Hoddle St, Queen St and Port Arthur massacres. The study showed firearm deaths remained steady before the Hoddle and Queen streets massacres then fell compared to the national average when Victoria adopted tighter laws in 1988.

Before uniform gun laws were introduced Australia-wide in 1997, Victoria's firearms laws were the nation's tightest. Gun deaths in Victoria and nationally fell to similar rates by 2000 after uniform gun laws came into effect after the Port Arthur massacre. The centre's injury prevention chairwoman, Professor Joan Ozanne-Smith, said Victoria was a world leader in gun law reform. She said a handgun buyback established in 2000 after shootings at Monash University that year had furthered the downward trend. "There's something like a 75 per cent reduction in firearm deaths since 1979 (up to 2002) which is quite remarkable, and we think this is a model for the rest of the world," she said."


I am not going to dispute here that gun deaths have declined in the State of Victoria over the last 25 years. The important question, however, is whether the decline is due to gun control. And what the article above glides over is that the BIG gun-control effort in Australia did not take place until 1996/1997 and that the before-and-after results Australia-wide show no significant effect of the 1996/1997 bans. Just for fun, have a look at a post by Tim Lambert -- an academic supporter of gun control: He presents statistics purporting to show that Australia's 1996 gun-control laws have been beneficial. He disputes John Lott's claim that serious crime in Australia has risen since then. What Lambert's alternative statistics show to me, however, is a pattern of no change rather than anything else. Deaths by firearm are surely the biggest issue but Lambert's table shows that the average rate of murder with a firearm before the bans was 0.37 compared with .30 after the bans -- with the figures in most individual years being .20 plus or .30 plus. Given statistical error and the range of influences which could have affected the averages concerned, the bans would seem to have achieved nothing significant -- a very poor result considering the vast expense in money and the significant loss of liberties associated with the bans. I note too that even the slight difference in averages observed seems to have been largely the result of a single very anomalous year in 1997 -- making the averages used a poor guide to any underlying trend. I think that for trend calculating purposes it would in fact be most appropriate to exclude both 1996 and 1997 -- and when one does that the "before and after" difference becomes very small indeed: .31 versus .28. The differences for other gun crimes also seem to be too small to assert a real underlying difference. And even Lambert admits a lack of a clear pattern when he notes that the "assault-with-firearm rate has increased". So John Lott's statistical selection shows ill effects from the firearm ban and Lambert's selection shows no clear effect. It seems to me therefore that NEITHER set of statistics support the control measures.

And in fact Lambert ended up agreeing. In his post of 18th June, he concluded that Australia's big 1996/1997 spasm of gun control was a waste of time.

A major part of Australia's 1996/1997 changes was a compulsory gun buyback and we see here what little effect that has had on criminal possession of guns. Perhaps most decisively, however, see the red line in slide 17 of this Australian Institute of Criminology report (PDF). (Background to the report here). Note that the "gun buyback" happened in 1997 but the national homicide rate showed not a twitch in response.

There is a comprehensive article on the dishonesty of the Australian gun-control "industry" here. And this article shows that it is only by playing fast and loose with the statistics that gun-control advocates can claim that Australia's recent restrictive laws have reduced the overall death-rate. And there is a recent scholarly paper by G.A. Mauser here (PDF) surveying the results of gun control in Britain, Canada and Australia which describes Australia's gun-buyback scheme and associated bans as a "failed experiment". The article concludes: "In all cases, disarming the public has been ineffective, expensive and often counterproductive". Also of note is this summary of the Australian statistics -- showing that "The number of (firearm) offences has increased even when 642,000 guns were destroyed".

No comments: